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This seemingly benign photograph is bricking Android phones when set as a screensaver or wallpaper.


Word spread on social media of a particular photograph that is causing some phones to go into a continuous reboot sequence when the photo is set as the screensaver. It’s been tested and yeah, it does trigger the reboot. In some instances, you cannot escape out of the sequence effectively bricking the phone and requiring a hard factory reset to continue.

The photo seems benign enough – a picture of a lake and a beautiful sunset over deep shaded mountains. But on certain Samsung, Nokia, Xiaomi, or Google Pixel phones, the screen will turn on and off continuously. One user explained:

“After setting the image in question as a wallpaper, the phone immediately crashed. It attempted to reboot, but the screen would constantly turn on and off, making it impossible to pass the security screen.”

Even restarting the phone in safe mode does not fix the problem.

A similar issue was reported back in 2018 on Android 8.1.0 and a Google Pixel XL with a 16-bit RGB picture. Google however, was unable to reproduce the problem and the issue was closed without resolution. In this instance, the problem was triggered by this picture:

Pixel BackgroundXL 1

The problem can be reproduced on an emulator. It occurs because the color map of the photo falls outside a range the phone is capable of handling. In the example instances I’ve seen, the photo’s color map was a non-sRGB image which Android does not check for. It does not seem to be a problem with Android 11 because it automatically converts pictures to sRGB before using them. A fix for other Android versions is expected from Google this month.